Colorado baker loses appeal over transgender birthday cake

A Colorado baker won a partial victory at the U.S. Supreme Court after refusing to make a wedding cake for a gay couple because of his Christian faith. However, he lost Thursday’s appeal in his latest legal battle. It involved his refusal of a request to make a birthday cake that celebrated a gender transition.

The Colorado Court of Appeals ruled against Autumn Scardina’s request for a cake from Jack Phillips and Masterpiece Cakeshop. It was to be pink with blue frosting.

It was also determined that the state law making it illegal to refuse services to persons based on protected characteristics such as race, religion, or sexual orientation did not violate business owners’ rights to practice or express their faith.

The appeals court relied on the 2021 Denver trial’s findings that Phillips’ shop had initially offered to make the cake, but Scardina explained that she wanted to use it to celebrate her gender transition.

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“We conclude that the creation of a pink cake with blue frosting does not express any inherently expressive meaning, and any message or symbolism it conveys to an observer would be denied to the baker,” stated the court. Phillips’ procedural arguments were also rejected by the court.

Phillips, represented by Alliance Defending Freedom maintains that the cakes he makes are a form speech and has plans to appeal.

Jake Warner, senior counsel at ADF, stated in a statement that “one need not agree Jack’s views to believe that all Americans should have the right to say what their beliefs are, even if they disagree with them.”

John McHugh, Scardina’s lawyer, stated that the court carefully reviewed all evidence and arguments.

Phillips and his shop were criticized by Scardina for wanting a birthday cake that was transgender-friendly, he stated.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2018 that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had used anti-religious bias to enforce the anti-discrimination laws against Phillips. This was after Phillips refused to bake a wedding cake for Charlie Craig and Dave Mullins. Justices called Phillips’ religious beliefs unfairly dismissed by the commission.

Although the high court didn’t rule on the issue of whether businesses can invoke religious objections in order to refuse service to LGBTQ persons, it does have another chance.

It heard another case last year challenging Colorado’s antidiscrimination laws. This was brought by a Christian graphic designer who did not want to design websites for gay couples. Lorie Smith, also represented by ADF claims that the law violates her right to free speech.

Scardina, an attorney tried to order Scardina’s cake the day after Phillips’ appeal was heard by the Supreme Court in the case involving the wedding cake. She testified during trial that she wanted “to challenge the veracity of Phillips’ statements about his intention to serve LGBTQ customers.”

Scardina filed her first complaint against Phillips before she filed her lawsuit. The state and the civil right commission found probable cause that Phillips had discriminated against Scardina.

Phillips filed a federal suit against Colorado accusing it in a “crusade” to crush him.

March 2019 saw Phillips and the state’s lawyers agree to drop both cases in a settlement Scardina wasn’t involved in. Phillips and Masterpiece sued her on her own.